Do Honey Bees Have Two Stomachs?

You know that feeling when you have to carry all your groceries in your hands at the store after forgetting your reusable bag at home? It’s a lot of work.

It takes skill to balance and carry as many items at once in your arms, and don’t forget the weight! Now imagine being a tiny bee; they don’t have hands or reusable bags!

Fortunately for them, nature had a plan. So, do honey bees have two stomachs, and is that how they carry honey?

Honey bees do have two stomachs.  They have one stomach for regular use, like the digestion and absorption of food, and one stomach specially designed for storing the nectar or water collected during foraging trips. This special nectar storage stomach is called a “crop” or “honey stomach.”

Instead of using hands or reusable bags, bees use this extra stomach as their version of a carry bag!

However, an intricate and dedicated process occurs to allow the nectar or water to enter the crop stomach and eventually become honey.


Why Do Honey Bees Have Two Stomachs?

Honey bees forage for water, nectar, and pollen. The pollen is collected on their hairy legs or abdomen and then into tiny little basket-like structures on their back legs called corbiculae.

The bees then transported it to the hive. This collection and transport of pollen is possible because the pollen can stick to the hairs on the bee’s body.

Water and nectar, however, cannot be transported on the bee’s body. The bee uses a specialized organ, a second stomach, also known as its “honey stomach” or crop explicitly designed to transport water and nectar to the hive.

This crop stomach structure is expandable and can collect the nectar of up to one hundred flowers.

The bee needs its regular stomach for normal bodily functions like digestion and absorption of food.

If the bee gets hungry while on a foraging trip, it can open a “valve” that connects the two stomachs. This valve is called the proventriculus.

Some nectar will then transfer from the honey stomach to the normal stomach to feed the bee. 

The bee can then use the transferred nectar as energy by digesting it. The bee stomach is like two chambered-structure.

All the bee’s food must pass through both stomachs as they are both connected.

The honey stomach is directly connected to the esophagus, where the food enters the body.

The food can then pass through the honey stomach to the normal stomach, where the digestive enzymes will break the food down for the bee’s body to process.


Where Are Bee Stomachs Located?

The honey stomach is located between the bee’s esophagus and its digestive stomach.

The stomachs are connected as nectar and water pass from the mouth to the esophagus into the honey stomach, and if need be, into the digestive stomach. 

The location of the entire structure is in the abdomen of the bee. The bee’s digestive system is divided into three sections.

The first section is called the foregut, which consists of the mouth, esophagus, and crop or “honey stomach.”

The esophagus connects the mouth to the crop. The honey stomach is a circular organ primarily used for food storage and nectar storage on foraging trips. 

The following section is called the midgut, also known as the ventriculus. The midgut is the bee’s stomach, where the digestive enzymes aid most of the bee’s digestion and absorb nutrients.

The last part is called the hindgut and consists of the small intestines, also known as the ileum and the rectum. Here is where salts and water are absorbed before the waste gets excreted. 

What Happens To The Nectar Once It’s Collected In The Honey Stomach?

Once the foraged nectar enters the bee’s mouth, it passes through the esophagus into the honey stomach.

The nectar comes into contact with specific enzymes that break down the compound sugars, sucrose, into simpler sugars, glucose, and fructose in the honey stomach. 

The conversion of complex sugars to simpler sugars helps lower the chances of crystallization.

This process turns the liquid nectar into a thicker and stickier honey-like substance.

Once the bee returns to the hive and the nectar has mixed with the enzymes of the bee, the bee will then regurgitate its enzyme nectar into another bee’s mouth. 

This nectar substance is then passed to that bee’s honey stomach to mix with more enzymes and become even more sticky and thick.

The process continues with several other bees until the moisture content is reduced from 70% to 20%, and the nectar turns into honey. 

If Honey Comes From The Crop, Can It Be Considered Vomit?

During discussions in the bee-loving community, a frequent topic of conversation is whether honey is spit, vomit, or even poop.

Because bees have two stomachs, one made specifically for holding collected nectar, regurgitation seems more accurate. 

Honey is not considered to be vomit, although it does at first seem that way.

This is because honey is formed from moisture-reduced nectar that is regurgitated out of the bee’s honey stomach and not from its regular digestive stomach.

Regurgitation is when food is brought back up to the mouth before ever reaching the stomach, where digestion occurs. 

This clarifies the question of whether honey is bee vomit. Vomit is when matter is ejected out of the mouth from the stomach, which includes stomach acid and digestive enzymes.

Honey is also often called bee spit, but it is not that either. Honey does not come from being stored in the bee’s mouth.

Nectar goes down the esophagus to reach the honey stomach and is then brought back up to the mouth before being transferred to another bee.

Also, honey can therefore not be poop either as it never goes through the regular stomach or digestive tract to be excreted as waste.


Honeybees do have two stomachs. One stomach is part of the foregut and is used only for transporting nectar and water to the hive for the bee to make honey, and one for normal body processes such as food digestion which is located in the midgut. This stomach is known as the “honey stomach” or crop. 






2 responses to “Do Honey Bees Have Two Stomachs?”

  1. […] size of a bee is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as the bee’s diet, habitat, and the specific demands of its role in the […]

  2. […] it goes down the esophagus and into a special second stomach called the “crop” or “honey” […]

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